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Gender Studies

The study of gender as a fundamental category of social and cultural analysis.

Spotlight on Consensual Non-monogamy

Image of three young black people embracing at the beachConsensual Non-monogamy
Consensual non-monogamy is an umbrella term used to describe any agreed-upon romantic/sexual relationship that falls outside of the exclusive, dyadic (two-person) structure of monogamy, including polyamory and open relationships. Though non-monogamous relationships have gained greater contemporary visibility, it has existed in many and various forms across history. This guide provides an introduction to both scholarly and popular resources for those wishing to learn more about consensual non-monogamy.

Getting Started

Spotlight on Black LGBTQ+ Poetry

Black LGBTQ+ Poets

Black LGBTQ+ poets write from the intersections of Black and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer identities and experiences. Black LGBTQ+ poets explore issues of gender expression and discrimination, love, sex, sexuality, desire, culture, race, and more through their creative work. Due to compounding oppressions, the history of Black LGBTQ+ poetry and poetics has not been given adequate attention by scholars or mainstream audiences. What follows is a list of poetry books by Black LGBTQ+ poets, anthologies of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) poets who are LGBTQ+, and scholarly articles on the topic, in celebration of Black History Month. We have also included a very brief introduction to African American poetry and recommendations for further reading on that subject.

 

Poet Danez Smith reading "Genesissy" for Button Poetry, 2015

 

Next Steps
As with many of these national commemorations, one month is never enough time to fully honor and celebrate the history and culture of marginalized communities, let alone heal the legacies (and ongoing reality) of harm they've experienced. We recognize that there is much more to be done, that racism and anti-blackness can't be eliminated simply through the creation of resource guides, and that the work of realizing justice won't soon be over. But nevertheless, we keep trying, contributing how we can and building upon the efforts of those who came before us, and we continue to learn from and with one another.

If you'd like to engage more deeply with Black History Month, the IU Libraries Arts & Humanities department has created a number of interrelated resources and features to provide more holistic coverage of this remembering. You'll find those, below:

And for all things Black culture, you can never go wrong with the resources, services, and collections of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Library.

Additionally, throughout the '21 spring semester, our department is hosting an ongoing Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge. This program encourage participants to engage with items from our collections that will facilitate and deepen their awareness of a variety of social justice issues, and features a number of titles relevant to Black History Month. If you'd like to join us, take a look at the Challenge Guide.

Open Access Resources with African American Poetry Features

Scholarly sources on Black Queer Poetics:

Lists of books, articles, and media related to Black Queer Studies:

A very brief introduction to the African American / Black Poetic Tradition

African American poetry predates the written word and has its roots in a rich oral tradition. shares sonic qualities with Black musical forms like gospel, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and rap, and includes a rich array of poetic sound devices: alliteration, rhyme, anaphora (the repetition of lines or fragments), to name a few. Black Poetry can be about any theme or subject, but the Black experience is often at the center of Black Poetry, which is informed by the distinctiveness of Black culture. Black Poets often unpack and critiques the systemic oppressions and individual discriminations that they, as Black Americans, have endured, like slavery, segregation, and police brutality. Notable writers and movements in Black Poetry are described in the Power of Poetry series of blog posts from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Critics and supporters of the distinction between African American and American literature abound. The positions of each side are outlined in this wikipedia article on the subject. 

Books and essays on African American poetry

IU Resources

Open Access Resources with African American Poetry Features

 

Academic Style & Gender-Inclusive Writing

A white person holds up a whiteboard with the words "hello my pronouns are" and two blanks with a slash so one could write them in. The words are written in rainbow colors.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


Academic style guides agree: honoring and using a person’s correct personal pronoun is a matter of respect, and it's good style

All three major Academic Style Guides (APA, the Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA) agree that a person’s correct personal pronouns (they, he, she, etc.) should be respected and used at all times in formal and academic writing. It is not possible to infer a person’s pronouns just by looking at them. To determine the pronouns of someone you are writing about, refer to their biography, or if possible, ask them what personal pronouns they use. If their personal pronouns are unknown or cannot be determined, using singular “they” may be the solution, if you are writing in APA or MLA. For those using Chicago, the guide recommends rewriting the text in a way that does not require using personal pronouns (Chicago, 5.255). Always take care in your writing to use the correct personal pronouns. Never assume a person’s pronouns when writing about them.

More about personal pronouns and how to use them

In English, personal pronouns are gendered. Historically, English offers only three personal pronouns: masculine (he), feminine (she), and the un-gendered “it” (which is widely seen as rude or disrespectful to use when referring to a person). These few personal pronouns do not adequately express the variety of gender expressions that have been present throughout history. Grammar is not static, but changes over time, adapting to, reflecting and perpetuating biases and social constructs present in the culture. Many people have been excluded by this rigid and artificial binary representation of gender codified in the English language and have had to find or create alternatives to identify themselves in speech and writing.

Below is a chart that lists some of the most commonly used personal pronouns and gives examples for how to use them.

This pronoun chart is directly based off of one created by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Gender & Sexuality Campus Center.
  Nominative (subject) Objective (object) Possessive determiner Possessive pronoun Reflexive
He He laughed I called him His dog barks That is his He likes himself
She

She laughed

I called her Her dog barks That is hers She likes herself
They They laughed I called them Their dog barks That is theirs They like themself
Per Per laughed I called per Per dog barks That is pers Per likes perself

Ze/Hir

(Zee/Hear)

Ze laughed I called hir Hir dog barks That is hirs Ze likes hirself

 

Academic Style Guides on the importance of achieving gender-neutral writing

Academic style guides agree on the importance of achieving gender-neutral writing, and the problem of using “he” as a universal pronoun. For a time, academic style guides suggested the use of “he or she” or alternating between “he” or “she” in writing. This construction is now acknowledged as being not only clunky and awkward, but exclusionary because to use “he or she” suggests a rigid gender binary, excluding all persons whose gender identities are outside of that binary. Luckily, singular “they,” in use since the 14th century in informal and spoken speech, has started to gain traction as a gender-inclusive pronoun to refer to a person of unknown gender in formal and academic writing. More on the history of singular “they” can be found at the Oxford English Dictionary’s website and Historians.org.

In 2021 Academic Style Guides are divided on the use of singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent

Academic Style Guides adapt slowly to changes in grammar, and like grammar, are socially constructed texts that are constantly in flux. To understand Academic Style Guides’ current and past positions on singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent, it is important to keep in mind that Academic Style Guides do not create grammatical rules. Rather, they establish formal guidelines that follow spoken and grammatical conventions which are set by informal writing and speech. Academic Style Guides are often slow to adopt conventions they might see as temporary. Despite the long history of singular “they” in this usage, which mirrors the grammatical evolution of singular “you,” some style guides have waffled on sanctioning its use.  

As of 2021, all three major guides (APA, MLA, and Chicago) acknowledge the ubiquity of singular “they” for use with an unknown referent in informal writing and speech. However, only one of the three guides, the 7th Edition of APA’s Style Guide, fully endorses the use of singular “they” as “a generic third-person singular pronoun to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context of usage” (APA, 120). MLA, which leaves grammar largely up to the discretion of the author, neither endorses nor prohibits the use of singular “they” in this sense. As a result, it is acceptable in MLA Style. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) has a particularly complicated history with singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent. In the 1993 edition, it endorsed “they/their” in this sense (Chicago, 13th Ed. 2.98). However, this was removed from subsequent editions. Though CMOS acknowledges the ubiquity of this usage, it continues to prohibit its use and instead recommends rewriting the sentence in some way that eliminates the need for a pronoun. For more on the history of singular “they” and the Chicago Manual of Style, take a look at this 2017 article written by Cai Fischietto on IU Libraries’ website.

Metaphysics of Gender

While in common parlance the word gender often serves as a kid-friendly synonym for sex, in feminist and academic discussions, the two are often seen as conceptually distinct. A rough and hasty description of the sex-gender distinction might say that sex is a biological given, gender is a social construction, and never the twain shall meet. However, even if we grant the sex-gender distinction (and a number of feminists do reject it for a variety of reasons), it remains far from obvious what, precisely, gender is, what it means for gender to be socially constructed, or what we should make of gender anyway.

Fortunately, feminists and philosophers have recently taken interest in the metaphysics of gender. This LibGuide serves as a selective bibliography on some of the scholarly work being done in this fascinating and important field of inquiry. A companion subject post on this topic is forthcoming.

Getting Started
For introductory material on the philosophy of gender and feminist philosophy, check out these articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which also provides extensive bibliographies of their own that are worth exploring:

Additionally, the following bibliography identifies sources (within and without philosophy) on matters pertaining to trans genders, the lived experiences of transfolk, and intersectionality, and should prove a valuable resource for those interested in the metaphysics of gender:

Next Steps
If you'd like to explore this topic further, our library subject research portals are also a good place to get started; among other things, they provide tailored, subject-based lists of research resources:

Sources on the nature of social construction, considered as such or with particular respect to gender:

  • Diaz‐Leon, Esa. "What is Social Construction?" European Journal of Philosophy 23, no. 4 (2015): 1137-52. arrow-link
  • Hacking, Ian. The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. arrow-link
  • Haslanger, Sally. "Ontology and Social Construction." Philosophical Topics 23, no. 2 (1995): 95-125. arrow-link
  • Mallon, Ron. "Naturalistic Approaches to Social Construction." In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward  N. Zalta. 2013. arrow-link
  • Sveinsdóttir, Ásta Kristjana. "The Social Construction of Human Kinds." Hypatia 28, no. 4 (2013): 716-32. arrow-link
  • Sveinsdóttir, Ásta. "Social Construction." Philosophy Compass 10, no. 12 (2015): 884-92. arrow-link

Sources on the genealogy of gender:

  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 2nd ed. London, UK: Routledge, 1999. arrow-link
  • Germon, Jennifer. Gender: A Genealogy of an Idea. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. arrow-link
  • Repo, Jemima. The Biopolitics of Gender. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. arrow-link

Sources on the metaphysics of gender:

  • Alcoff, Linda. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. arrow-link
  • Bach, Theodore. "Gender Is a Natural Kind with a Historical Essence." Ethics 122, no. 2 (2012): 231-72. arrow-link
  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 2nd ed. London, UK: Routledge, 1999. arrow-link
  • Diaz-Leon, Esa. "'Woman' as a Politically Significant Term: A Solution to the Puzzle." Hypatia 31, no. 2 (2016): 245-58. arrow-link
  • Haslanger, Sally. "Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them to Be?" Noûs 34, no. 1 (2000): 31-55. arrow-link
  • Haslanger, Sally. Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. arrow-link
  • Jenkins, Katharine. "Amelioration and Inclusion: Gender Identity and the Concept of Woman." Ethics 126, no. 2 (2016): 394-421. arrow-link
  • Overall, Christine. "Sex/Gender Transitions and Life-Changing Aspirations." In You've Changed: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity, edited by Laurie Shrage, 11-27. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009. arrow-link
  • Power, Nicholas, Raja Halwani, and Alan Soble, eds. Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings. 6th ed. New York, NY: Rowan & Littlefield, 2012. arrow-link
    • See, for example:
      • Ch. 14: Talia Bettcher, “Trans Women and the Meaning of 'Women'", 233-50.
      • Ch. 15: Christine Overall, “Trans Persons, Cisgender Persons, and Gender Identities”, 251-67.
  • Sveinsdóttir, Ásta Kristjana. "The Social Construction of Human Kinds." Hypatia 28, no. 4 (2013): 716-32. arrow-link
  • Witt, Charlotte. The Metaphysics of Gender. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. arrow-link
  • Witt, Charlotte, ed. Feminist Metaphysics. New York, NY: Springer, 2010. arrow-link
    • See, for example:
      • Ch. 3: Natalie Stoljar, “Different Women. Gender and the Realism-Nominalism Debate”, 27-46.
      • Ch. 5: Mari Mikkola, “Ontological Commitments, Sex and Gender”, 67-83.

Sources on feminist metaphysics and the metaphysics of gender vis-à-vis "mainstream" metaphysics:

  • Barnes, Elizabeth. "Going Beyond the Fundamental: Feminism in Contemporary Metaphysics." Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 3, no. 114 (2014): 335–51. arrow-link
  • Mikkola, Mari. "Feminist Metaphysics and Philosophical Methodology." Philosophy Compass 11, no. 11 (2016): 661-70. arrow-link
  • Mikkola, Mari. "On the apparent antagonism between feminist and mainstream metaphysics." Philosophical Studies (2016): 1-14. arrow-link
  • Schaffer, Jonathan. "Social Construction as Grounding; or, Fundamentality for Feminists, a Reply to Barnes and Mikkola." Philosophical Studies (2016): 1-17. arrow-link
  • Sider, Theodore. "Substantivity in Feminist Metaphysics." Philosophical Studies (2016): 1-12. arrow-link